Friday, October 17, 2008

BSF trooper posted in Kashmir faces wrath of rioters in Maharashtra

By Javaid Malik (Courtesy Daily Greater Kashmir dt. Oct. 16th, 2008)
Srinagar, Oct 15: A paramilitary BSF trooper, Arif Hussain Khati, posted in north Kashmir’s Bandipore district, had to beg before the rioters to spare his family at Shirud village in Maharashtra, after anti-Muslim riots broke out there on October 5. Khati, who is posted in BSF’s 51 battalion told Greater Kashmir over phone from Malegaon in Maharashtra on Wednesday that he being a Muslim nearly proved fatal for him. “You are a Muslim first then a soldier and we can’t spare you,” Khati quoted rioters as having said. While recollecting what he and his family members witnessed, Khati said, “They (rioters) burnt my uniform, identity card and gallantry certificates before ransacking my house on the night of October 6 and tried to push my younger brother Sikander Hussain into the fire.” Khati, a constable, had arrived in Dhule to celebrate Eid after a long time, however, his joy was short lived as three days after the festival, he had to flee from his area to save his family. “Had we not fled they (rioters) would have killed us,” he said. Khati said that as he saw the rioters attacking his house on that fateful day, he called up the Commanding Officer of his battalion and informed him. “My boss told me to seek police’s help and gave me the telephone numbers of the top police officials of the area, but my desperate attempts to contact them proved futile as their phones were switched off,” he said, adding, “Rioters went on a rampage from 8:30 pm to 12:30am in the night, killing scores of Muslims and burning their houses. Had police arrived on time many innocent lives could have been saved. Police arrived around 12:30am, but by then it was too late.” Khati said that after police arrived, he mustered courage and caught hold of few rioters who were trying to run away, but to his utter surprise, Khati said, “Police set them free.” “I put my life at stake for guarding the borders of the country hoping that my family is safe, but after witnessing this incident my impression has changed. If police and government cannot protect a family of soldier, how can they protect the families of common people?,” Khati asked. He said that rioters took away the cash and jewelry and burnt all the documents pertaining to moveable and immoveable assets. “First time in my life I felt helpless. I didn’t know how to react, as I knew they are my own people and not enemies and they are the ones for whom I’m on the border.” Khati said that riots in Dhule, 25 kms from his home village, had broken out on October 5 and people were anticipating more attacks, but to his surprise police was not deployed and no effort was made to prevent the situation from taking an ugly turn. “As commoners we could feel the tension. It was amazing that police didn’t make any arrangements to protect us. There were only 100 houses of Muslims in the area and protecting them was no big deal,” Khati said, adding that he and his family have now shifted to Malegaon, as their own people were in majority in that area. “I had to show my back to the rioters for the sake of my family and flee away, had I done the same on battle field, I would have been called a traitor,” he added. “I’ve been posted in Kashmir for past three years and have participated in many counter-insurgency operations, but in our battalion I have never felt as odd man out as there is no discrimination on the basis of religion. Me and my colleagues are like brothers,” he said. Khati said that his father Shabir Hussain was also in BSF’s 131 battalion and he followed his footsteps to join the force. “I’ve no regrets, I will continue to serve my nation, so what I am a Muslim,” he added. The violence in Dhule started as a minor conflict over some Muslims allegedly tearing up posters put up by local Hindu groups urging Hindus to wake up following the spate of bomb blasts around India. But it soon escalated, resulting in 10 people being killed and nearly 200 injured.

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